Author Archives: Satyavani Robyn

Meet Poppet, the newly three-legged temple bunny

Meet Poppet, our newly three-legged bunny.
Three legged Poppet
Kaspa and I enjoyed our two week break and at the end of our first day back, a busy volunteer day, I went to feed the much-loved temple bunnies with 3 year old Felix.

It took me a while to notice that Poppet wasn’t coming out of the hutch. When I looked closer I saw the blood, and that her back leg was at a horrible angle underneath her. I won’t go into details but when I picked her up it was a traumatic sight. We think she caught her leg in a slatted chair – I still can’t understand how she broke it so badly.

Felix was amazing and ran to get a grown-up as fast as he could. We rushed off to the emergency out-of-hours vet in Worcester, trying to balance speed with not bumping her around too much. I couldn’t imagine how much pain she was in. The vet said she’d keep her comfortable overnight and then we could take her to our own vet in the morning.

Rabbits are more difficult to treat medically, both because of their size and digestive systems, and because vets don’t get as much experience as they do with cats and dogs. We did some hasty Googling that evening and I spent the night worrying. Would she survive the shock? The anaesthetic? Would they save her leg? What would happen if not?

The next day we said goodbye to her at 10am and waited. It was 3.30pm when the vet called. She’d made it through the op, was eating well, and by 5pm we were asked to come and pick her up.

She’s currently in a temporary pen in the living room with her friend Peter for company (I just went in to check on them – Peter is licking Poppet’s head, and Fatty our old cat is hanging out nearby). She’s already managing to hop around remarkably well, and the prognosis is good.

Whilst waiting for the news I couldn’t concentrate on anything and so I had lots of time to look at the beautiful blue sky and contemplate. Life is so short and unpredictable. Most (all?) of the discomfort I experienced from the time we found Poppet injured was because I wanted thing to be different than they were, and I wanted to be in control. I wasn’t in control of how far away the vets were, or whether or not she was going to stop breathing on the journey. I wasn’t in control of whether she came round after her operation. Of course, I manipulated the situation as much as I could – barking orders at poor Kaspa, interrogating the vet about her surgical skills, beating myself up for leaving the chair in the rabbit’s enclosure – but none of these things made any substantial difference to the outcome.

By the grace of the Buddhas, Poppet has been allowed some more time alive – to flop over and roll in the sunshine, to race up and down the grass, and to snuggle under Peter’s belly.

It’s often in the midst of crisis that we realise how much we take refuge in the things we can’t control. Remembering this, I might do better during the next crisis, but I probably won’t. Instead I can relax, knowing that the Buddhas accept me just as I am, and give thanks. Thanks to the overnight emergency nurse who found & fed Poppet dandelion leaves. Thanks to our vet for her kindness. Thanks to the insurance company for paying most of the £750 it cost. Thanks to Felix for staying calm. Thanks to the supportive friends, the car, the Chinese takeaway we had at the end of a long day, the people who grew the carrot Poppet just munched…

And thank you to you, for reading and for caring. Namo Amida Bu.

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Don’t forget our weekly schedule and one-off events.

Non-Amida events at the temple: Kaspa’s latest mindfulness meditation classes start on Tuesday 6th Sept. Click here for more information: Mindfully Whole. We are also still holding a CoDA 12 Step group every Tuesday at 6pm for anyone who’s interested in improving their relationships – for more information speak to Satya or look at coda-uk.org.

Finding your rhythm

15162587781_0b51de4d82_bNamo Amida Bu. I’d like say something about our rhythm here in the temple, and how rhythms can help you too. First an update on what we’ve been getting up to.

All’s well here in the temple. Work is underway on Seishi House, the coach-house conversion project which will be the home for Jnanamati’s art therapy practice etc. – read more here. We’re looking forward to a three day retreat, ‘Opening Your Heart’, on Oct 22nd and as usual see our website for our weekly schedule and one-off events. If you’re ready to learn more about Pureland Buddhism we have a lovely introduction course via email – here.

Finding a rhythm. Last week I became emotional when a weekly meeting to talk about temple business was unexpectedly cancelled. I was surprised at how upset I felt.

When I reflected on what had happened, I realised that I had been feeling stressed about various things but had been ‘holding out’ for a chance to talk it through and hand some of it over. I’d coped okay knowing that the meeting was coming up, but when it was postponed I suddenly realised that I really needed it!

In November we’ll have been here for two whole years. Over that time we’ve added more regular events into our diaries. When we moved in we decided to eat together every Friday night, plus three services and a Listening Circle. Since then we’ve added mine and Kaspa’s meeting, morning meditation three times a week, a weekly doing-the-accounts, a weekly ‘taking care of the temple hour’, a weekly lunch with Jnanamati, a Friday morning Order meeting, a fortnightly Dharma study group…

You might imagine that all these meetings make my week feel crowded and over-scheduled. They actually have the opposite effect. I don’t have to worry about the accounts on a Tuesday because I know they happen on a Friday. I am prompted to check in with Emma on a Friday, even if we don’t manage to catch up during the week. They give the week a spacious rhythm, and I adjust myself to them without even knowing, as demonstrated by my sudden upset. They help regular communication happen and they ensure that we offer different things to our extended sangha.

What rhythms do you have in your own life? Is there something you avoid that would benefit from going in your diary at the same time every week? Would you like to set up a fortnightly lunch with a friend or a time to meditate every morning or evening? How do you feel around schedules – claustrophobic or more free?

Do write a comment and let me know how you’re finding the rhythms in your own life. Namo Amida Bu, deep bow.

Why our most unpopular group is at the heart of the temple

Heart by Lisa L WiedmeierEvery Sunday night at 6.30pm we clear away the service books and the zafus in the shrine room, arrange a few chairs into a circle and sit around a big stone on a purple cushion.

A few people come – sometimes just one, sometimes four or five – and we take turns picking up the stone and speaking of whatever is in our hearts. The rest of the group listen. Nobody gives advice. Nobody says anything to make anyone ‘feel better’. We receive whatever people are saying in silence. It’s that simple, and that complicated.

Sometimes people talk of the practicalities of their weeks, or something they’ve been puzzling about. Sometimes there are tears – of sadness, anguish, anger or gratitude. By the end of that hour, I always feel more connected to Amida Buddha – often more connected than I have all week.

Why does the practice of stone-passing connect me with the divine more powerfully than all the other spiritual practice we do here – the chanting, the walking meditation, reading the sutras, hearing the Dharma and talking with my spiritual friends in a less formal way?

I’m sure there are lots of reasons, and some of these will be personal to me. I think the most interesting reason, however, is that the listening circle is a powerful spiritual practice in it’s own right.

In these circles, we are asking people to trust the group with the parts of themselves that they are struggling with. This is only possible because the rest of the group looks upon those parts with eyes of love. And we mostly manage this because Amida has our back – he is making a bigger golden circle around us, and giving us the faith to face the darkness without shrinking back or reacting defensively.

As we hold this group in the shrine room, we are literally looked upon by the Buddhas – many of them look down from the walls, the golden standing Buddha keeps watch from one end, and the sitting Buddha smiles at us from his peacock chest at the other end. But we don’t need a shrine room – wherever we go, when we pick up a stone, members of the Amida sangha know that it is really a magic stone, and that if we trust the process we will create a unique sacred space between us regardless of how ‘spiritual’ or ‘nice’ we’re feeling. In fact, it’s more helpful to the group if people are able to speak about the darker and pricklier aspects of being human – because then others in the group can witness this being received, and feel that maybe it might even be safe to reveal their own grief or anger or fear.

Why is this group less well attended than all the other things we offer here? We’ve had this conversation over the years. Are we holding it at the wrong time of the day or week? Do we describe it properly?

People access the divine in many different ways, and it may just be that other people find a more direct route to Amida through other means. But I also think that the nakedness of sitting in a circle with others is just plain scary. What might I say? What might the others think? What might I discover about myself that I’d rather not know? What might leak out?

As a therapist who’s undergone many years of therapy myself, I know I have an advantage in this respect – it does get easier! – but I’d like to finish with some words of encouragement as I would love for our little circle to get bigger. If you want to come along and just listen for the first few weeks (or the first few years!) you will still benefit – listening to others will bring you all kinds of unexpected insights and will connect you to the Buddha just as powerfully. If you’re afraid of getting it ‘wrong’ or feeling nervous about what might come out, just take the stone and say ‘I’m nervous about what I might say, my stomach is full of butterflies, and that’s enough for today’ and hand the stone to the next person. Or just hold it in silence for a few minutes and let the group hold you. These things unfold in their own time and there’s no point in rushing things. Experiment – take a little risk and see what happens. When you start feeling nervous, remind yourself that the most important thing is to listen to others, and tune in again to what they are saying. Above all, remember that the group, and most importantly Amida, always has your back.

 

 

Awakening the Body

Annie Parry's photo.Guest teacher at Amida Mandala Malvern 2015
An Invitation from Annie – Awakening the Body ….

COME AND JOIN ME ….
SOFTEN YOUR HEART
FEEL IT OPEN
SENSE YOUR ROOTEDNESS
STAND LIKE A TREE
WAVE HANDS LIKE CLOUDS
ABSORB THE GOLDEN SUN
STAND LIKE A MOUNTAIN
SPLASH IN WATERFALLS
CREATE SPIRALS IN THE AIR
DRAW DOWN THE STARLIGHT
LEAN INTO THE MOON

No experience needed…. all welcome.

Two introductory taster sessions, with a short time for questions.
TUES Oct 6th and TUES Oct 13th.
Time:11.30-12.30
Venue:
Amida Mandala Buddhist Group, 34 Worcester Rd, Malvern WR14 4AA

Forward Plan: NB Oct 20th no session Half term week.

Begin weekly: Oct 27th, Nov 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th.
Low cost- £5 per session. (Or what you can offer).

Annie Parry, MA ADMP annie.present@talktalk.net
Any questions, have a chat on 07985 783425 or 01905 772137

Safe spaces

Circle of love by Andy WooLast night I sat across from two people I’m close to and lied to them.

Every Sunday evening we sit in a Sharing Circle and pass a stone, taking turns to speak and be listened to. These kinds of spaces are incredibly rare.

What usually happens in this circle is a kind of magic. The words we speak (whatever they are) take on a preciousness as the others all listen quietly. The words of others become tender and wise. The space between us fills up with empathy – we can really begin to understand what it’s like for others at the circle to live their lives. (Much like it is for us to live ours.)

I usually come away from the circle feeling warm & fuzzy. Last night I came away feeling resentful and tired.

My lies were lies of omission. When I had the stone I talked lightly about my week and what I was doing tomorrow.

What I should have said was:
I really didn’t want to come along to the Sharing Circle tonight. I’m tired of people. I’m grumpy. I don’t want to listen to anyone. Now leave me alone.

I don’t know for sure what might have happened next if I’d started with that. I might have felt more angry. I might have cried. I might have realised what the grumpiness was about. But I think it would have brought me ultimately closer to the people I was sitting with, rather than distancing me.

“Our society is so fragmented, our family lives so sundered by physical and emotional distance, our friendships so sporadic, our intimacies so ‘in-between’ things and often so utilitarian, that there are few places where we can feel truly safe.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Safe spaces are scarce for most of us. Even when we find them, it’s not easy to make use of them. It’s not always appropriate to share what’s in our heart, and often we are too afraid to show others what’s really going on. I didn’t share more honestly because I was scared – of being rejected, of hurting others. That’s okay – that’s how it was last night.

But if you can look again and find somewhere, as I have with this piece of writing this morning, you will find the magic. I can feel it now. The magic is love.

Where are your safe spaces? How can you make more of them?

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‘Circle of Love’ by Andy Woo, with thanks.

Our first volunteering day

volunteering at Amida MandalaOur first volunteering day at the temple. Kaspa & I got up early to get things ready – cleaning materials, hedge clippers, ingredients to make lunch for lots of people, a long list of things to do.

We had let people know that we were starting at 10am. We sat nervously in the dining room at 9.45am. 9.50am. Nobody arrived. 9.55am. 10am. 10.10am. Still just the two of us.

I felt a great heaviness. I just knew it. We were going to have to carry the temple & grounds on our own. It was too much.

For a few minutes we wondered what was the best thing to do. After asking the Buddhas, we both reported back with the same answer. Just get on with it.

Kaspa got the hedge clippers out. I started printing leaflets. The heaviness left me. By the time I started dusting the kitchen ceiling I was feeling cheerful.

At 11.30am James popped his head round the door and said that he was free today after all. He picked up the hedge clippers. David arrived with his son Nathan. Jnanamati arrived. Izzy, Mike, Steve, Clare, Tina, Emma…

By the end of the day both hedges were trimmed back, a garden wall was rescued from under a great spaghetti of old ivy, all the bathrooms were deep cleaned, the kitchen annexe was totally cleared, we’d made 5 trips to the tip and one to a charity shop, the clock was put up in the library… everything from the list and more. We ate bean stew & Clare’s lovely blueberry muffins and we laughed and laughed.

If we are alone, that is okay. We don’t have to do more than we can do. We can turn on the radio and attack the cobwebs.

But of course we are never really alone. Even if nobody had come yesterday, we are in people’s thoughts and in their hearts.

Our next volunteer day is on the 22nd of February. Join us?

Hurray for sangha. Namo Amida Bu.

Self confidence or shrinking our self?

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Should we be growing our self-confidence or shrinking our self?

This Buddha has his hands in the same position as the Buddha on our main shrine – the vajrapradama mudra, which is typically translated as the ‘Mudra of Unshakable Self Confidence’. I looked it up yesterday after a nine year old on a school visit to the temple asked me what it meant.

Our society encourages us to spend much time ‘building up our self-confidence’ – putting energy into bolstering our self esteem and strengthening our sense of ‘me as okay’.

I’m all for self-compassion. It is important for us to have a realistic view of how competent and capable we are, which means not undervaluing ourselves or seeing ourselves through the warp of old stories. I also think it’s equally important to acknowledge our fallibilities and our foolishness. Mine runs pretty deep.

What really helps me when I’m feeing down on myself or afraid of the world is connecting with some sense of ‘everything-will-be-alright’. Not alright-perfect but alright-sometimes-awful but always-held-in-a-bigger-container.

In one place I found this mudra translated as Mudra of Unshakable Trust. I like this a lot more. It points outside of me, to where the help is.

It points towards not trust in myself but trust in something bigger than me. The Universe, the Buddhas, a Higher Power, God, Humanity. Whatever you want to call it. Faith.

Don’t worry too much about your levels of self-confidence. If you take refuge in something bigger and live your life illuminated by this great light, everything else will come out in the wash.

And if you’re feeling wobbly, maybe try the vajrapradama mudra for a while. You are holding your hands over your heart, yes? Can you feel it yet?

The Dharma of Tea Towels

H is for home by on the lineIn the communal kitchen there is a basket where everyone puts tea towels when they are dirty.

We have a lot of tea towels. And as the first weeks in the temple went on, they seemed to be piling up fast. I did a load of washing, hanging them all out and bringing them back to fold and put in the draw. I did another load. Then I watched the basket pile up again.

Would anyone else do them?

As I passed the pile of dirty tea towels every day, resentment started building.

Eventually I mentioned the huge teetering pile of tea towels in a house meeting. The next day I went to do some of our own washing. Someone had washed the tea towels, and then forgot them and gone off for the weekend. If I wanted to do my own washing, I’d have to hang them all out…

As I hung them out I laughed. It was as if they’d arranged a little lesson for me. You can’t get out of washing these tea towels, you know. And look – now you’re doing it, and it’s not so bad, is it?

I realised that it wasn’t really the tea towels I was resentful about at all. Behind the resentment was fear. One of the things I felt anxious about before we moved in was how it would be to share space with others without ending up feeling responsible for everything that needs doing, all the time. Others won’t notice things-that-need-doing in the way I do. I will have to slave away and everyone else will be sitting around drinking tea and it will be too much for me.

Of course, I carry this story around with me wherever I go. The reality is that there are jobs here that different people to. We’ve occasionally had to remind people to do certain things and this has felt fine. Everything here runs extraordinarily smoothly.

The tea towels showed me where my fear was, and then (with the help of my housemate) they showed me how I could let go and have faith. Whether or not I end up washing all the tea towels, everything will be okay.

Yesterday I passed the tea towel basket. It wasn’t quite full, but I was on my way to my office so I put them in the washing machine on my way past. As I hung them out afterwards I enjoyed the neat rectangles and their fresh smell. As I folded them back into the drawer I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that others would have clean tea towels to dry their plates.

Wherever there is grit, there is the potential for a new opalescent layer of pearl.

What or who is bothering you at the moment? What might it have come to teach you?

We’re in!

Our new shrineWe have moved into our beautiful new building and we are full steam ahead… there has been lots to do and not much time to update this blog, but we hope to spend more time letting you know how we’re getting on after a good rest in the New Year. We hope you might come and visit us sometime soon…

Thank you to Sanghamita Adrian Thompson for this beautiful photo of our Buddha in the shrine room.

Namo Amida Bu, Satya